Maybe I should be upset at the good folks at the fine New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, one of the great on-line reference works. They have listed the Italian poet (dare I say "poetess"?) Vittoria Colonna as Vittorio Colonna. Vittori-O is a man's name. Vittori-A is the feminine form—you know, the weaker vessel. If it's just a typo, ok, get Attila the Nun to whack the proof-reader across the knuckles with a ruler. Or—this is perhaps a bit too clever—maybe it's sneaky obeisance to Michelangelo's poem to Vittoria that starts,
In any event, Victoria (in English) Colonna was born in 1492 and died in 1547. In the meantime, she made the friendship of Michelangelo, Ariosto, Sannazzaro, Aretino, and others, composing along the way a body of poetry that would one day have her hailed as the "first great woman poet in the Italian language."
Ferrante was then involved in an anti-imperial conspiracy that might have wrested the Spanish vicerealm of Naples away from Spain and put himself on the throne of Naples with Vittoria as his queen. We'll never know, since (1) he died from the wounds incurred at Pavia, and (2) he is said to have given up the idea because his Vittoria told him that she would rather be the wife of an upright general than the consort of a king who had backstabbed his way to the throne.
After Ferrante's death, Vittoria went into religious seclusion and wrote poetry to her dead husband. English translations of much of her poetry are available. Here is one prose translation by George R. Kay. It is in his Penguin Book of Italian Verse (Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1958):
live upon this fearful, lonely rock, like a
sorrowing bird that shuns green branch and clear
water; and I take myself away from those I love
in this world and from my very self, so that my
thoughts may go speedily to him, the sun I adore
and worship. And although they do not try their
wings as much as I wish, yet when I call them
back, they turn their flight from other paths to
The same people (the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia) that called her "Vittori-O" says that she was "undoubtedly greater as a personality than as a poet." I disagree. They can't even get her name right.
Quite recently, an unknown booklet of lyric poetry by Vittoria was found at the Vatican. The booklet includes 109 compositions. The discovery was made by researcher Fabio Carboni, who describes the finding in an essay published in Aevum, the review of the historical, linguistic and philological sciences of the Humanities Department of the Catholic University of Milan.
to main index to literature portal